Saturday, October 28, 2006

A Tutorial; Homemade Soup 101

My Homemade Soup - 101

Beginning a year or so ago, and especially since our move to the east, my girls asked me to pass on the knowledge for making delicious and nutritious homemade soups. Theirs they say, never quite turned out the way mine have over the years.

Fast forward to this week, where I began making yet another vat of perfect autumn time soup for my family, an ordinary procedure to either eat for snacks, meals or freeze as normal, and it was then that I actually experienced a personal ah-ha moment of my own.

After posting photos several blogs ago featuring our kitchen teamwork and that of the beginnings of my cauliflower and leek soup chopping, the glowing light bulb flicker zapping occurred, hitting me like a thunderbolt with the idea to use this writing blog for a “Homemade soup 101 Tutorial”. This way I can seize the day to both teach and share how I do this, with a show and tell by using real photos taken step by step throughout the preparation process, from the very beginning to the ultimate serving ending.

Thoughts of a hot bowl of homemade soup are always a pleasant welcome, certainly as autumn and winter are upon us; our tummies yearn for warmer foods. And with cold and flu season circulating, nothing is as terrific as the slurping of mouths around a spoon over a bowl of homemade chicken soup to nurse any illness away, or chase the nasty bugs into oblivion.

There’s been one fault I have, that of always making too much! It’s not all that horrible though, as the freezer usually has a stash to select from, or I’ve been able to bless others with a corning ware casserole dish filled with the homemade gift to save them a cooking night. I only have one large crock-pot, so anything over that is not a waste, rather a blessing in the end.

May I offer a word of caution though, freely sharing with you the sheer privilege of my very best secret of all, a perfect heavenly homemade soup is the most scrumptious when left for a day or two before serving. Like a fine wine, soup is also better with age. The flavors blend, the consistency becomes exactly just right, and always it’s always most hearty then. Therefore having the aging process in mind, I find it best to make a pot of soup ahead of time, transfer it to the crock-pot to complete the simmering process for as long as I feel it takes until perfect, store the cooled off crock-pot ceramic liner with its contents it in the fridge overnight, then the mealtime fare is amazingly as simple as heating the contents slowly again using the same pot.

In lieu of the particular recipe I’m offering below, I’ll also share a fact about me with you that I absolutely loathe those little green leafy brussel sprout cabbages, but my hubby seems to think they are an absolute must for Thanksgiving and Christmas traditional menus, insisting on them year after year. Because of my own and other family’s strong battle of detesting of those green blobs, as you might imagine there are many leftover sprouts afterwards, and me wondering what on earth to do with them all! Usually they were chopped fine and tossed into the turkey soup or other flavorful soups or (gulp) thrown away. Thus the recipe below appealed to me very much after we were given an invitation to dinner, where we were served “Brussel sprout soup” with a beautiful smile plastered on the hostess face, proudly serving the steamy dinner with her fresh homemade buns to everyone at the table. “Just a little”; I announced trying not to seem rude. Admittedly I was aghast at how I was ever going to manage, but I’m pleased years later (with a lot of laughs in between) to announce that I never gagged, choked, or threw up afterwards! The secret seemed to be having all ingredients blenderized and mashed well into a pulp with just a bit of cream added to it. Being a real sporty trooper like me, please don’t allow the title of this recipe I’m sharing today turn you off. You will thank me for it someday….smile.

Below then is my “secret family recipe” I lovingly begged my friends for after surviving the brussel sprout soup introduction served all those years ago. I initially used this recipe as a guide with brussel sprouts, but through sordid trial and error, I have successfully substituted any one or a mix of the following vegetables for the brussel sprouts; Carrots, Cauliflower, Cauliflower/Leeks, Celery, Celery/Cauliflower, kelp, corn, spinach, green beans, broccoli (stems only little florets added to simmer later), pumpkin, squashes, and the sky is the limit beyond that.

Then lastly, you’ll be shocked to know that I never use the recipe at all anymore, haven’t for years as I won the award for being the queen of adding whatever suits my fancy and whatever might be stored in the pantry in need of using before an expiry date.

I also love to make other soups, generally using anything in the house, any soup base for soups as lentil, beef and barley, minestrone, clam chowder and the like, however for “SOUP 101”, here’s a basic beginning to see you onward ho for making your own yummy and most soothing hot soups in your own kitchen.

The start of another cold weather soup

Brussel Sprout Soup (Or Cream of ….)

- 2 cups of fresh (or thawed frozen) brussel sprouts

- Flour

- Parsley (dry tsp.)

- 1 small white onion chopped

- 1 large white potato chopped

- 2 tbsps of butter melted

- 1 bay leaf

- Salt and pepper to taste

- 3 cups of water with chicken bouillon cube, or chicken broth

- Cream or milk to make it “cream of…” after complete and cooling down.


Chop the brussel sprouts up after a good washing

Peel and dice the onion

Peel the potato and dice, then add all three items into a pan.

Using 2 tbsp of butter melted in the pan first, toss the contents around and sauté on medium heating until a little softer.

Add 2 tbsp.of white flour then toss with all contents until well blended. (I never do this anymore, rather use a bit of corn starch or flour diluted in a bit of water at the end to thicken later)

Add salt and pepper to taste, parsley and bayleaf

Add the chicken broth and turn heat to high bringing all to a full boil (I find this recipe does not have enough liquid, therefore I add enough liquid until it is over all the contents by about ½ inch).

When all items are tender and soft, remove the bayleafs (here’s the dreaded confession of sometimes not being able to find them and crunch, crunch, crunch for the family chewing occurs)

Using a ladle, pour cooled contents into a blender, and pulverize the contents into a nice smooth “mush”.

Add all back into the pan; blend in ½ cup of cream or milk to make a smooth creamy soup consistency.

Here’s how I changed it….to make it my own.

Add all the vegetables I either need to get rid of in the fridge, or want to include in the pan to make a fully loaded pot, approximately yielding 8 cups of produce.

- 4-5 peeled white potatoes, diced

- 1-2 white onions or 2-3 medium sized leeks (green and white portions sliced and diced) or; a white onion and a leek together.

- At least ½ cup of fresh parsley chopped or several teaspoons of dry if you don’t have fresh

- 2-3 large bayleafs

- No butter cut the fat. Instead I add a bit of water in the bottom of the contents and “steam” everything and stir often so nothing dissipates so it burns. And, I’ve found this step isn’t even necessary if you prefer to make a faster batch of soup.

- Salt and pepper to taste and sometimes I add a hint of curry (you’d be so surprised how much the flavor is enhanced by adding a pinch of this) or a clove or two of minced garlic.

If I haven't any homemade broth, these are my preference.
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- Estimate and add (MATH!) enough chicken broth to fill the pot up so it’s over the vegetables by at least 1 inch or more so while the boiling is bubbling, the liquid won't dissipate so rapidly. Also, if I choose to use the liter size of organic broth, I always use half that of additional water to dilute it a bit more, not missing it once the flavors blend, blend, blend with age right? If you haven’t any broth itself, cubes to make some, frozen to grab from the freezer, how about a container of your favorite vegetable juice? I use tomato, veggie or v-8 juice a lot as my main broths or with beef or chicken all the time. Yummy yum!

- Use this recipe and pulverize it, then dilute enough to use as a soup base for the addition of diced leftover meats and other veggies, then "age" it all after a heating first.

- Add a cup of whip cream, half and half, milk or leave it as it is. It all tastes great!

Today I'm using 1% milk to make it a bit creamier.

- I no longer use a blender as it takes far too much time with such a large pot full of soup, so instead I use my hand held Braun mixer, which is just perfect unless you pick it up and it sprays all over the kitchen (I've done this too)

Using the hand "Braun" mixer to mush to a pulp texture.

- Add a splash of plain yogurt to serve, soy sauce, or Maggi or Bragg’s sauce (“put put” sauce as my husband’s family called it)

Helpful hint; Sometimes once I’ve blended the basic recipe items altogether, I’ve added a bit of cooked macaroni noodles, or leftover cooked rice, chopped up any sort of pasta, added chopped tomatoes or other complimentary softer vegetable, and the best one; if you have any leftover mashed potatoes or gravy, add them in and omit the potatoes in the recipe as needed.

A green salad and fresh bread/buns or garlic bread add to the meal, however there have been many times we’ve served this cold as a slurpy drink instead, on its own in a mug.

I’ve frozen bits in ice cube trays to use for my baby food (heat and serve), and your youngsters will absolutely love their veggies for all time this way. I promise!

Over time too as it sits to “age”, you may find a wee bit of water or milk must be added before heating again as it becomes very thick over time.

The worst thing you can possibly do is not attempt to perfect your own kitchen cooking learning curve and shove this lesson aside, not even giving this a try, because, I also promise once you get the hang of it all, it will be so natural and everyone will love coming to your place for hot soup.

Bon Appetite!

Coming up soon...wink;

Next time I'll feature a tutorial for making my famous homemade Caesar salad dressing recipe, just for you girls.... I've almost got all the photos for the show and tell ready.